• Carmen Milligan

Wednesday Word: Vitriol


[ˈvitrēəl, ˈvitrēˌôl]


  1. cruel and bitter criticism. "her mother's sudden gush of fury and vitriol" synonyms: revilement · invective · condemnation · castigation · chastisement

This one packs a punch, huh? Such a wonderful word, with so many opportunities to use it, but it seems to have fallen away from common usage. It's origins are scientific:

Late 14c., "sulphate of iron," from Old French vitriol (13c.), from Medieval Latin vitriolum "vitriol," noun use of neuter of vitriolus, variant of Late Latin vitreolus "of glass," from Latin vitreus "of glass, glassy," from vitrum "glass". So called from its glassy appearance in certain states.

The meaning "bitter or caustic feelings" first attested 1769, in reference to the corrosive properties of vitriol (when heated it produces sulfuric acid, formerly called oil of vitriol).

With words like "bitter", "caustic", and "cruel", this one is destined to always have a negative connotation when used. If someone tells you that your reaction is full of vitriol, maybe it's time to take several deep breaths and step away. Likewise, if someone is exhibiting vitriol towards you, maybe it's time to take several deep breaths and step away. haha

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